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Weinstein gets 23 years in prison for sexual assault

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Harvey Weinstein who became an emblem of the #MeToo movement as waves of women accused him of harassing or attacking them over the years was sentenced to 23 years in prison Wednesday for sexual assault.

[MANHATTAN] Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison Wednesday for sexual assault. His next stop is likely to be a maximum-security prison an hour north of the lower Manhattan courtroom in which his punishment was pronounced.

Weinstein, who became an emblem of the #MeToo movement as waves of women accused him of harassing or attacking them over the years, was convicted last month of forcing oral sex on production assistant Miriam Haley and raping Jessica Mann, who wanted to be an actress.

The maximum total penalty was 29 years. Weinstein, 67, has asked New York State Supreme Court Justice James Burke for five, citing his age and failing health. Weinstein, who has been jailed since his conviction, arrived in court shortly after 9.30 am in New York, handcuffed to his wheelchair. Court officers removed the cuffs as sentencing got underway.

Harvey Weinstein addressed the court in the final moments before sentencing, warning of a "crisis" in America that he compared with the McCarthy era.

"I'm worried about this country," he began. "We are going through this crisis right now in our country, it started basically with me. I was the first example and now there are many men who have been accused of abuse, something I think that none of us understood."

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"It is not the right atmosphere for the United States of America," he said. "Everybody is on some kind of blacklist. I had no power. Miramax was a small company. I couldn't blackball anybody."

"I think possibly men like myself, like Dalton Trumbo - they said they were Communists, and now there's a scare, just like that now."

Defence attorney Damon Cheronis called a letter prosecutors filed with the court Friday arguing for a harsh sentence "a laundry list of unsubstantiated allegations that have not been vetted" and said the judge shouldn't consider those uncharged crimes in fashioning Weinstein's sentence.

"I read the letter through the very same prism that you saw it through," judge Burke told Mr Cheronis.

Lead defense lawyer Donna Rotunno then argued that a report by probation officials includes errors and misstates testimony and asked judge Burke to disregard it.

Ms Rotunno asked for the minimum sentence and said her client couldn't get a fair trial because of various prejudices against him.

"Having every single thing you do and every move you make be scrutinized and dominated by the media, as you can hear by the clicking of the typewriters today in court," was insurmountable, she said.

"Mr Weinstein is a sick man," she said, referring to a history of heart disease and other unspecified medical issues that were recently diagnosed.

"His parents taught him that you should give back," she said. "If you look at the allegations in this courtroom, it's a very small side of who he is. What you don't see is the other side of what he's done. He built careers, and because he built careers, everybody wanted a piece of him."

Ms Rotunno cited Weinstein's five children, including two grown daughters and three young children.

She said allies of Weinstein wanted to come forward in support but were afraid to do so.

"They don't feel they can do so because they can lose their jobs," she said.

Yesterday the court released a trove of documents relate to the case, including two letters Weinstein sent to industry colleagues in late 2017, as the allegations against him were becoming public.

In an October 2017 letter, Weinstein expressed some contrition, calling himself "a flawed human being" and admitting he had been "inappropriate in many ways." He expressed admiration for the then-nascent #MeToo movement, saying it was "teaching old dinosaurs like me the way" in terms of his interactions with women in the industry.

But he also sought to cast blame back, saying he had seen "actors and actresses take an almost predatory stance toward casting." He also said "things have been wildly exaggerated" and decried the "vitriol" being expressed against him.

On Dec. 21, 2017, Weinstein struck a more despairing tone. "I have lost my family," he wrote. "I have daughters that will not talk to me. I have lost my wife. I have lost the respect of my ex-wife and generally all of my friends. I have no company. I'm alone."

He again tried to defend himself though, calling himself a "sex addict" and saying his conduct reflected changing social mores.

"There's a difference between assault and womanizing," Weinstein said. "There's a difference between assault and cheating. Men my own age grew up in a different era. Now in a movement that has swept our country, things that were consensual 22 years ago have become non-consensual."

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